Safe Haven Or Last Resort?

Every state has a so-called "Baby Moses" law to protect unwanted infants.

Hospitals have become safe havens for parents to leave children without repercussions. But only Nebraska's new law set no age limit, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

And the state became a national dumping ground for abandoned toddlers, tweens - even teens.

Tysheema Brown had to lock up her valuable from her own son, a troubled 12-year-old who'd been expelled from two schools.

She drove from Georgia to Nebraska, and left him at an Omaha hospital.

"I ran out of hope," Brown said. "I ran out of fight. But I never ran out of love for my child."

In three months, 34 children from seven states were abandoned in Nebraska, and 28 of them were older than 10. Only one was an infant.

"And we need to get back to the intent of the law, and the intent of the law was always the protection of newborns in immediate danger of being harmed," said Todd Landry, director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Nebraska lawmakers are now considering whether to change the law and limit safe havens to infants up to three days old.

Every other state limits its safe havens to infants.

But some parents drove hundreds of miles to Nebraska in desperation. Often, they couldn't find help for older kids who had significant personal issues.

"One-in-five children in this country has an unmet mental-health need," said Mary Lee Allen of the Children's Defense Fund. "And only about one-in-five of those children get any sort of threatment."

Tysheema Brown tried to get her son help.

"The system definitely fails," she said. "they do not care. They do not care."

To child advocates, Nebraska's dilemma spotlights a larger problem: protecting kids of all ages.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.